TESTING with 25kV ac electric traction has commenced between Santa Clara and College Park on the Santa Clara Drill Track in California, the first time electric trains have run on the Caltrain network and another major milestone in the commuter railway’s landmark electrification programme.

Tests are taking place with seven-car double-deck Stadler Kiss EMUs and Caltrain says these will extend to the main line between San Antonio and San Jose Diridon later this summer.

“The start of testing for our new electric trains marks an historic moment for our agency, symbolising tangible progress towards electrification,” says Caltrain executive director, Ms Michelle Bouchard. “It signifies a future of improved service, reduced environmental impact and a more reliable experience that will benefit both our riders and the communities that we serve.”

The $US 2.4bn project involves electrifying 82km of infrastructure, from 4th and King Street station in San Francisco to Tamien station in San Jose.

Caltrain says that 99% of the catenary masts and 81% of the overhead line are now installed with infrastructure complete and undergoing testing between Palo Alto and San Jose. Construction is continuing between San Francisco and Menlo Park and all infrastructure work is set to be completed by October after which testing of the new train fleet and infrastructure will be extended to the entire network. Commercial electric services are scheduled to commence in autumn 2024, Caltrain told IRJ.

Caltrain awarded Stadler a $US 551m contract to supply 16 six-car EMUs in August 2016 with an option to extend these sets to seven-car trains exercised in December 2018. The 177km/h trains have been built at the manufacturer’s plant in Salt Lake City and there are options worth $US 385m under the original contract to supply up to 96 additional 96 cars.

Caltrain has received four EMUs with further deliveries expected this autumn. The EMUs will replace F40 diesel locomotives - approximately 75% of Caltrain’s diesel fleet - which entered service in 1985. Its newer locomotives will be retained to operate the non-electrified Dumbarton extension and services south of Tamien.

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